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What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

The real Google-Trump website deal

Good morning! This Monday, what's really happening with the Google website Trump promised, how sports are going virtual, and the anniversary of the first website ever registered.

Don't forget to register for our first Virtual Meetup this Thursday! I'll be chatting with Protocol's Lauren Hepler and others about the future of work — for tech execs, gig workers, and everyone else. It's going to be fun, and you'll almost certainly get to meet my dog. Hope to see you there!


People Are Talking

Coronavirus hasn't changed how VC deals get done, Kleiner Perkins partner Mamoon Hamid said:

  • "From partner meeting pitch to investment decision — all done remotely and completely distributed. While we crave in-person interaction, this can and will work."

The future of video chat is practically the same as being in person, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan told me:

  • "I think in the future, a system like Zoom can deliver a much better face to face experience. Imagine a world where, anywhere, any device, one click, you feel like you're in the same conference room … you can see each other and shake hands."

Aurel Schubert probably isn't buying bitcoin, the former Director-General of the European Central Bank said:

  • "Maybe sooner or later, bitcoin will be one of those objects on display in the Museum of Illusions."

Mass quarantine won't bring the internet crashing down, said Cloudflare's Matthew Prince:

  • "We haven't seen dramatic slowdowns anywhere across our network. In Italy, we're seeing a 30% increase over normal usage and we're not seeing any deterioration of service across Italian ISPs. And that is an entire country that's in quarantine."

Good mentors make all the difference, Zynga's Michelle David believes:

  • "With the help of both female and male mentors in various disciplines, I realized along the way that my voice was just as important. Now I see so many confident and smart women in leadership roles all around me who continue to inspire."

The Big Story

The drama behind that Google site Trump promised

In case you missed it: President Trump's announcement on Friday that Google had 1,700 engineers working on a website to help determine if and where people should get tested for coronavirus surprised a lot of people. Including Google. And Google apparently spent the weekend scrambling to respond.

The story got even more confusing as the weekend progressed:

  • Trump tweeted that the "Fake and Corrupt News never called Google," which is not true. We called Google. And so did others.
  • And Sundar Pichai published a blog post on Sunday saying that "We're partnering with the U.S. government in developing a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention, and local resources nationwide." The site should launch later today.
  • But Google only began working on this project after Trump's announcement on Friday, according to Axios.
  • Meanwhile, Verily announced on Sunday that it's working with the California government to roll out "an online tool to increase risk screening and testing for people at high risk of COVID-19." This did sound more like what Trump was talking about, only far more limited in scope.

Sunday night, a very basic version of the Verily tool appeared, for people in two Bay Area counties. It asks three basic questions, then walks you through a simple survey of symptoms and recent history.

  • A Verily spokesperson told BuzzFeed that the tool's current job is actually to tell sick people not to go to testing facilities, "because they are not prepared to provide medical attention." The misworded messaging: If you're sick, don't get tested, go see a doctor; this is only for you if you fit the criteria but aren't yet sick.
  • In taking the screener, you grant Verily permission to share your information and test results with health authorities everywhere.

This story's still confusing and still evolving, but here's what it seems like so far: President Trump overstated the availability and functionality of a project Verily was already working on, and the company scrambled to match the proclamations and get something running as fast as possible. And also: I'm not eligible for coronavirus testing.

Search engines

How to handle the internet's most important search query

Speaking of websites for finding coronavirus information: Every search engine on the internet — from Google to Reddit to YouTube to Pinterest — is grappling with how to make sure people find useful information as quickly as possible. I searched a number of popular sites for "coronavirus" and "covid," to see how their approaches varied.

They're all a bit different, but the end goal is largely the same: to punt people to the CDC and WHO, organizations that can actually be counted on. (Even though the CDC's website, at least, has been showing severely outdated information.)

  • Facebook's first result is a notice directing you to the CDC's website, "to help you stay healthy and help prevent the spread of the virus."
  • Google shows recent news, links to the WHO and CDC for more information, tips for handwashing, and more, all before you get to normal search results. On google.com, too — maybe the most valuable real estate on the internet — there's a link reminding you to "Do The Five" to help stop the virus.
  • Pinterest shows a handful of results from the WHO and a notice that "we've limited search results to Pins from internationally-recognized health organizations."
  • Twitter and Reddit both show a message at the top of search results directing users to the CDC's website — but just below, the search results are as wild as ever.
  • YouTube doesn't have a specific notice at the top of search results, but I've never seen a search result so heavy on video from news organizations. YouTube has said it's directing users to the WHO and CDC, but I only see that after 20 search results.
  • DuckDuckGo and Yandex treated coronavirus the same as any other search results. Same for Yahoo and Ask.com, in case you're still searching in 2002.

JOIN US ON THURSDAY

Our job is to help you — tech and business executives — do your job. Join our weekly Protocol Virtual Meetup on what we are seeing across the tech landscape. The first will be this Thursday at noon Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern.

Esports

A virtual fix for sports fans — and athletes

With virtually every sport and game and backyard bocce tournament canceled, this weekend became a fascinating one for esports. NBA teams took their matchups to NBA 2K. Runners and cyclists competed in simulators. And I spent Sunday morning watching two virtual Formula 1 races meant to replace the canceled Australian Grand Prix.

And it … worked! Mostly. Eventually. At first, Veloce Esports, the channel officially hosting one simulated F1 race, struggled badly with lag. But by the time everything was working and the race began, more than 100,000 people were watching on various channels.

  • The most popular stream of the Not AUS Grand Prix? Lando Norris, an F1 driver, who had about 70,000 concurrent viewers and was for a while the most popular stream on all of Twitch.

With the CDC recommending a shutdown of events with more than 50 people, sports are basically done for the next two months. Fans all over the world are going to have to find new ways to play and watch the games they love. Live-streaming is going to be a big part of that.

Do you have a new form of entertainment in these coronavirus times? I want to hear about it: david@protocol.com.

Coming Up This Week

Seems like everybody's working from home, so: lots of Zoom calls, lots of Slack, not much else. By the way, keep sending your WFH tips! We're running a bunch more in the next couple of days.

The Accelerate Good Global conference, now a virtual event, starts tomorrow. Registration is free, and the speaker list is impressive.

On the earnings calendar, Tencent reports results on Thursday.

In Other News

  • Today in coronavirus: Apple closed all its stores outside of China. Apple also told employees to work from home — and it's been messy. People in high-security jobs are having trouble figuring out how to work remotely. Airbnb allowed anyone to cancel reservations. The guy who hoarded 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer donated them all. This weekend was the worst at the box office since 1995. (The number one movie back on that weekend? "Outbreak." Oh yeah, and "Outbreak" is blowing up on Netflix right now.) Italy is turning to WhatsApp and Skype to cope with life under lockdown. Niantic made changes to Pokemon Go so that it's easier to play indoors. Amazon's having trouble keeping basic items in stock, and delivering them on time. And wireless carriers are promising not to terminate service and waiving late fees so everyone can stay online.
  • Symbolics.com was the first domain name ever registered, and it turned 35 over the weekend. The site's had a few owners and purposes over the years, but it's now home to The Big Internet Museum. Its current owner, Napkin.com (maybe even a better domain name) would like you to know symbolics.com is not for sale.
  • Brave filed a formal GDPR complaint against Google. Brave said it has evidence that Google violated the "purpose limitation" principle, and uses personal data for more than the reason it was collected.
  • Paul Graham's 2008 essay about the upsides of starting a company in a bad economy is making the rounds again — and it does read remarkably current to the situation we're in now.
  • Now that Joe Biden's the Democratic frontrunner, companies like Zenefits are going to get a lot more business. Zenefits is the campaign's single largest vendor, and it's safe to say that contract's getting extended a few more months.
  • Iran's government launched an app it said would diagnose coronavirus. It didn't. But it did suck up a huge amount of data on millions of smartphone users!
  • In awful timing, Microsoft Teams went down temporarily on Monday morning, just as most of Europe tried to start its week of working from home.

One More Thing

The Air Force's favorite nav trick? A fitness watch

When Air Force pilots get into U-2 recon jets, they have an enormous amount of technology at their disposal. And a slightly surprising backup: a Garmin smartwatch. Ars Technica wrote about the remarkable number of uses for the D2 smartwatch, including GPS in case of jams or outages, quick communications among squads, and tracking pilots' vitals. Garmin's devices are, in fact, apparently popular all over the military. And at least once, all that wrist tech has come in handy helping a lost crew get home safe. Not bad for a $950 add-on to a $50 million-plus plane.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me, david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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